Jun 21

Marg Szkaluba features great storytelling with musical numbers

by Jenna Shummoogum · 0 comments

Calgary has a rare opportunity with Downstage Theatre’s Uprising festival being part of the Magnetic North Festival. Uprising is presenting a collection of performances by Calgary artists that engage with current political and social realities. The theatre shows being put on as part of Uprising are: Raunch, In The Wake, Marg Szkalube as well as a couple theatre events Community Conveyors and Magpie Treasure Talks.

Verb Theatre’s Marg Szkalube (Pissy’s Wife) is usually performed in bars or pubs, and this is the first and only time it will be performed in a theatre. The play tells of Marg Szkalube (Sharon Pollock), who is playing a set at a honky-tonk bar. She starts to throw the audience what she calls chunks, her life and what she has been through.

She starts with how her mother ‘dropped dead’ as she calls it when she was born and how she met Pete, or as everyone called him, Pissy in the 9th grade. “I figured I’d give him a go.’ She got pregnant, so they dropped out of school and go married.
Her story unfolds with charming songs in between and Marg’s storytelling reveals aspects of her character. How she isn’t content to just be a housewife and that she wants more in life. How after being told that she’s dumb, she concluded that there are things you can stick to: booze, sex and god. Throughout her narrative we understand that she gets great joy from music and singing. She had children, but they were just okay for her. We also see the dark side of domestic abuse and how it takes Marg a long time to understand that she doesn’t need to stay in her marriage. As we are pulled deeper into what being Pissy’s wife means, we can truly grasp Marg’s pain. But as Marg says, ‘when things happen to you, they don’t happen as fast as they do when you tell them.’ And that makes things easier.

Brent Podesky accompanies Marg adding live music to the play. His musical medleys and interactions with Marg adds to the narrative, making it very accessible to the viewer. Kathy Zaborsky, the musical director and keyboard player was absent at this showing, but is to return for the next performance. Pollock is quite great as Marg, pacing around in cowboy boots and weaving her story between songs.  She is entertaining and charming and a great storyteller. Her singing voice is not ideal though, which brings in to question how Marg could make a living as a country and blues singer after leaving her marriage.

Marg Szaluba is not a happy go lucky story. It’s a narrative of a women who experienced 20 years in an abusive relationship. But the play is engaging and compelling and Jamie Dunsdon directs in such as way as to strike a balance between heavy and light, to convey the seriousness of the story without filling the viewer with complete despair.

Marg Szaluba (Pissy’s Wife) is part of Uprising, which is presented in partnership with the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. More information can be found online. This play runs one last time tonight. Tickets available at the door or through Epcor.org

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